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‘Still’ | Shortlisted for Saboteur Indy Lit Award

Still is shortlisted in the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards for Best Mixed Anthology. Congratulations to all the talented Still writers and many thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the book.

Readers are invited to vote for the book, details at Saboteur Shortlist

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David Hebblethwaite’s story-by-story review of ‘Still’

DAVID HEBBLETHEWAITE is a renowned book blogger from Yorkshire, who reviews both novels and short fiction on his blog Follow the Thread. He also writes reviews for The Huffington PostStrange HorizonsWe Love This Book and Fiction Uncovered. He’s a big supporter of the short story format and since the end of September, he has reviewed every story that appears in Still – in chronological order. We’ve listed a brief excerpt from each individual review below, or you can read the full reviews here.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

‘Still’ on sale at Foyles

And the ending is a real shock to the system. ‘Midnight Hollow’ – Mark Piggott

But, for those four pages, the author convinces you it’s all true. ‘My Wife, The Hyena’ – Nina Killham

I also love the way Blackman transforms the imagery of dirt trailing down a wall; the ending of ‘Sanctuary’ becomes as much a tableau as one of Bakker’s photographs. ‘Sanctuary’ – Andrew Blackman

Wyld  keeps the atmosphere suitably unsettling, and any hope she offers comes with its own nagging doubt. ‘Corridor’ – Evie Wyld

There’s a neat reversal in this story, and I like Frey’s use of the staircase as an image and venue. ‘The Staircase Treatment’ – Myriam Frey

The choppy rhythms of van Mersbergen’s prose underline the sense of unease, up to a rather chilling end. ‘Pa-Dang’ – Jan van Mersbergen

The titular rose acts a symbol of the family’s hope – something to keep growing in the garden, and not to remove, for fear of angering the landlord. ‘A Rose For Raha’ – Ava Homa

Royle tops it off with a dark twist at the end. ‘The Blind Man’ – Nicholas Royle

It’’s amusing to read, but also leaves one with the nagging thought of just how easily that sort of thing could happen… ‘From the Archive’ – James Miller

Details of ‘real’ life are heightened through their transformation into Hershman’s science-fiction idiom, and the ending is especially poignant. ‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

Rechner makes good use of sensory detail to convey the stuffy and intense atmosphere of the theatre. ‘The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister’ – Mary Rechner

Hussein reveals the full possibilities only gradually, and even then keeps the truth ambiguous. ‘The Tree at the Limit’ – Aamer Hussein

Just as Beard’s piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, so it effectively portrays lifts as simultaneously useful and threatening spaces. ‘Life Under Inspection, Do Not Touch’ – Richard Beard

This is a nicely paced story, with an effective sting in its ending. ‘Odd Job’ – Preeta Samarasan

What follows is a snappy, rhythmic jaunt through the cacophony of modern life. ‘Noise’ – James Higgerson

 ‘A Job Worth Doing’ is more a celebration of what has passed. ‘A Job Worth Doing’ – SJ Butler

Rose captures a certain stiff formality in the voice of his protagonist; and the range of details focused on creates an effective sense of diffuseness. ‘Sere’ – David Rose

This piece is both a portrait of the emotional value that books can have to someone; but it’s also a poignant tale of loss… ‘Morayo’ – Sarah Ladipo Manyika

A well-constructed mosaic of events from Justin Hill’s life, with recurring themes of memory and going through doors. ‘Waiting’ – Justin Hill

What gives this story its edge is a clear sense that this is a false hope, and that the protagonist can’t move on in life because she won’t let go of the idea. ‘Ten A Day’ – Jan Woolf

‘Opportunity’ provides an elegant and broad examination of its issues. ‘Opportunity’ – Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Its supernatural twist gives this tale a very effective chill. ‘In the Dressing Room Mirror’ – Claire Massey

I like the ambiguity in the ending of this piece, and especially how it illuminates the narrator’s character. ‘The Owl at the Gate’ – Nicholas Hogg

Definitely a story that carries greater force than its length might suggest. ‘Still’ – SL Grey

This absorbing read takes a shocking turn. ‘How to Make a Zombie’ – Deborah Klaassen

A fine note on which to end the anthology. ‘Winter Moon’ – Xu Xi

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Photographs from ‘Still’ launch event, 26 September 2012 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

THANK YOU! Negative Press London says a BIG thanks to all the writers (reading/non-reading) who were at the Still launch event in the Gallery at Foyles, as well to all the people who came for what was a very lively entertaining literary evening.

The readings went down a storm and the audience really enjoyed the mix of writing and related photography. It was a special treat to hear the stories read out with such passion and panache. Q&As, discussions and mingling followed!

Thanks to the writers who were there: SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, Tania Hersham, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen (thanks for setting up Facebook event), Claire Massey, James Miller, Jan Woolf and Evie Wyld.

And thanks to the writers who were there in spirit: Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Ava Homa, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan and Xu Xi.

A big cheers to Paul Savage for a fantastic bar service and to David Owen at Foyles for five star help and organisation.

All photographs by Roman Skyva, www.romanskyva.com

If anyone has any photographs they want to share, email to info@neg-press.com (max file width 1000px at 72dpi, if possible)

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Q&A | Justin Hill

Justin HillJUSTIN HILL LIVES IN HONG KONG. He was born on Grand Bahama Island in 1971 and was brought up in York. He is the author of five books and winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, the Betty Trask and Somerset Maugham Awards, as well as being shortlisted and nominated for a host of other awards, including the Booker. The Drink and Dream Teahouse  (Phoenix, 2002) was picked by the Washington Post as one of the best novels of 2001. Shieldwall (Little, Brown, 2011) is the first of the Conquest Series, which chronicles the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings, in 1066. It was a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2011. He doesn’t often write short fiction, but for Still he contributed a reflective story exploring the concept of doors and opportunities life offers.

What made you want to become a writer?
When I was nine I was in a rudimentary reading class. I didn’t like books and when I grew up I wanted to be a fireman. Then I read The Hobbit, and was smitten by the depth of Tolkien’s world. I followed up with Lord of the Rings, and after that I was decided: I wanted to make up stories of my own: and be a writer.

You’re from the UK. How did you end up living in Hong Kong?
I grew up in York, and all my friends at school were born in York District Hospital. I was born in the Bahamas, but came back to Yorkshire when I was three, and remembered almost nothing of my earliest years: except for looking at tropical fish through the glass bottom of a boat, and being at Disney, and going on Captain Nemo’s submarine.

While all the family friends from the Bahamas kept travelling, we stayed in York. I was determined that as soon as I was able I was going to leave England and see the world. I played Dungeons and Dragons as a boy, and looking back, I was doing what heroes of most fantasy books did: I left kith and kin, and went on an adventure. My adventure was to go to rural China with VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas.) I was working with rural English teachers in a sleepy market town called Yuncheng. The nearest foreigner was 12 hours bus drive away. The summers were sizzling. In the winter temperatures plummeted to minus twenty.

We had no heating, and I had to learn Chinese, and once, in the middle of winter, when I was wrapped up in scarves and padded jackets, I was once mistaken for a local Chinese.I loved working with VSO. It was perfect for my writing. I went from China to Eritrea, in East Africa, and then back to China. I spent seven years working as a volunteer, and was pretty sure that when I came home at the age of twenty nine that I was unemployable.

When I was twenty three I wrote my first book, and it was published and so the challenge after that was to write better books.

When I was twenty nine I finally came home, and wrote my first novel  (The Drink and Dream Teahouse) while I was at Lancaster. It was a homage to China, and I thought I had left China behind. But life moves us round. My wife was from New York, and via a cottage in Connemara, we ended up coming back east. We went back to China, but it was different with children.

There were risks I was happy to take myself, that seemed unnecessary, and so Hong Kong seemed like a good alternative. And Hong Kong has been good to us. But somewhere the future is a house in the hills north of York. All my family are still there, and I can’t think of a better place for children to grow up. I like the frankness of my fellow Yorkshire men: others mistake it for rudeness, but I like it. You know where you stand. If they don’t like something they’ll tell you. If they like something, then they’ll probably never say.

You’re working on a trilogy about the Norman Conquest. Is this a lifetime ambition? Are you feeling homesick?
Nostalgia seems to be a key part of my stories. I’ve always written about the place I just left, and while I had the idea for the novels about the Norman Conquest whilst lying in the bath in Ireland, we were about to leave for China.

I don’t think it was an ambition: but I’ve found that it’s brought me much closer to my ‘roots’: which lie very much in Tolkien, and the kind of fantasy and sci fi writers I was reading when young. They brought me into role playing games and what Tolkien and Lewis named the ‘Nameless North’: I read the sagas, Beowulf, Bede, old English poems – and growing up in York, that literature spoke to me more profoundly than anything else I’ve read. They give me an odd feeling low in my gut.

My early work was about China, and I felt a little strange writing about another culture. It’s refreshing and challenging for me to be writing about my own country. At the moment it feels like it might be my life’s work, or at least what is most popular with my readers. I’ve had a huge response for Shieldwall, which is a delight. I hope to keep going for as long as my readers keep buying.

The Green Room Roelof Bakker Still Negative Press London

The Green Room
© 2012 Roelof Bakker

What drew you to the selected photograph?
There is something intriguing about empty spaces, and especially abandoned spaces. It brought a ton of memories back, but all the time I felt as though I was looking through a doorway. I waited for a long time before writing, and the idea of writing a story about doorways came to me.

Your story ‘Waiting’ is a mini Justin Hill autobiography, also focussing on doorways in relation to life and the opportunities it offers. Can you explain the thinking behind it? Are you working on an autobiography?
One weekend I was working with some of the MFA students at City University, in Hong Kong, and had asked them to bring photographs from their lives with them.  We were playing around with different orders, and different ways of telling stories. One of them had some photos of looking through windows and I immediately though of the picture that I ended up picking and thought of structuring a story around doorways.

I was sitting down to write, when the Radio 4 piece came on, and I knew I was away: and started playing with ideas of memory and – I suppose – nostalgia!  I combined it with a collage effect, where you start writing about three different things and as you keep writing then you start to see links within the story. It’s a really fun way to write, and a nice palate cleanser after writing historical fiction, which is much more about characters, events and actions.

I’m not sure I’ve done enough to warrant an autobiography yet, but I like the idea of recording the world I grew up in: because time seems to accelerate, and the world has in many ways disappeared. For example, in China I think I lived through the end of the postal age. I wrote a letter to my family each week, and each week they wrote a letter to me, and it took a month for letters to arrive, and so it could take two months to get an answer to a question. This now, even to me, seems ridiculous.

Do you enjoy the story format?
Unlike most writers, I have come late to short stories. I wrote books first, and found them much easier than short stories. So I’ve written very few short stories, and certainly nothing so autobiographical. I’ve also never worked with another artist in this way, and found it very inspirational. I have a feeling it will lead to something longer. As I’m working on a series of narrative driven stories, this was immensely refreshing: to tell a non-linear story, where the drive is not narrative, but something more complex.

Do you use images to generate ideas?
I wrote ‘no’ at first, but then I looked around my office and saw that my office is full of images, and thinking about it, art has always been a way into writing.

I’ve always thought that in the same way you know a Picasso, you should be able to pick up a book and know that this writer is a Chatwin, or a Borges, or a Marquez. It was years before I met another writer, and while I lived in China, most of my friends were from the Art Departments, so our conversations were about the things that we held in common. So when I started writing I wanted to pick a style that fitted China. In my twenty years in China I’ve collected a lot of Chinese scrolls: calligraphy and painting, and Chinese painting seems artistically similar to writing: in that most of the page is left blank, and the brush strokes create the impression of a ‘full picture’ while traditional Western art fills the page with detail and colour.

So I have a collection of Chinese scrolls in my room, a Shenzhen oil copy of a Dutch painting of beached boats that has a huge sky, and then some postcards I’ve collected: a constant is Great Wave off Kanagawa, by Hokusai. I have a number of collections of Japanese prints. Some of them are A friend of mine is the artist Tim Ayres, who lives in Amsterdam, and his work, which combines text and image has always intrigued and fascinated me. I have a couple of his prints in my office.

Have you collaborated with visual artists before?
No, although a number of writers who are have come to me for advice, and the process has intrigued me. Writing is a particularly lonely activity, and it’s wonderful to bring someone else’s imagination or vision into the process.

I’ve enjoyed it immensely: it has brought a new kind of story out of me, and so I’d like to keep going with this process.

Where do you write?
I work from home, on the 15th floor of a Hong Kong high-rise, with Radio 4 on the internet, although the UK is generally asleep while I am working, and it is the World Service playing.

I have a great antique Chinese desk, and a Tiffany lamp, and an antique map of the North Riding of Yorkshire on my wall. It’s good, when so far from home, to see names of places that are intimately familiar.

I live in a place called Discovery Bay, which is about as unlike people’s perceptions of Hong Kong as you can get. It’s on a different island. No cars are allowed. It’s pretty low residency, and akin to living in a village back home. It is small enough that you know most people enough to say hello.

What are you working on?
I set out a few years ago to write a series of books that covered the Battle of Hastings in 1066. What we ‘know’ about those events is largely an invention of the Norman conquerors. They remind me of the neo-cons of the 11th century: and the story of England’s conquest is much more interesting and complicated.

The first book, Shieldwall, came out two years ago to great acclaim, and the second, Hastings, will be out next year.

Shieldwall Justin Hill

JUSTIN HILL WEBSITE

BUY SHIELDWALL

 

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‘Still’ exhibition at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London – until 30 October

The Green Room

‘Still’: an exhibition of photographs and excerpts from related stories

An exhibition of photographs from Still by Roelof Bakker has opened at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB.

Twenty large size photographs of vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall are exhibited in two separate spaces: the Café on the first floor and the Gallery on the third floor.

In line with the approach of the literary art book, each photograph is accompanied by a brief excerpt from the related story with the writer’s name and story’s title included.

‘STILL’ AT THE CAFÉ ON THE FIRST FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 OCTOBER
With excerpts from stories by Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Ava Homa, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, James Miller and Evie Wyld.

‘STILL’ AT THE GALLERY ON THE THIRD FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 SEPTEMBER
With excerpts from stories by Richard Beard, SJ Butler, James Higgerson, Nicholas Hogg, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Preeta Samarasan and Jan Woolf.

Justin Hill, Waiting, from Still Negative Press London 2012

Excerpt from ‘Waiting’ by Justin Hill to accompany the print ‘The Green Room’

The book itself was launched at Foyles on 26 September in the Gallery with a literary event including readings by Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, James Miller (with Jan Woolf) and Evie Wyld as well as a screening of the video film from the project with other visuals.

FOYLES EXHIBITION DETAILS

Negative Press London and Foyles have also launched a short story competition.

NEGATIVE PRESS LONDON AND FOYLES: SHORT STORY COMPETITION

EXHIBITIONS SPECIFICATIONS
20 C-type prints from negative film with film information borders, size 50cm x 50cm, framed. 20 plagues with story excerpts mounted on foam board.

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